Okay, so I’ve talked about this a lot in the past, and every time that I bring up, I get a lot of resistance and a lot of questions. So, I thought, let’s address it all in one blog post, solely dedicated to Body Comments. It’s going to be pretty short and sweet, but straight to the point!
By commenting on people’s bodies and complimenting weight loss, it fuels the myth that thinner is better. I know that the intention behind your comment is not to cause harm, but it’s the underlying intention of what that comment represents to someone else, and to our society. We internalize these beliefs and it is translated into how and when we comment on people’s bodies.
Weight loss or weight gain could be a side effect of many complex behaviours. This individual could have an eating disorder or disordered eating, they may have recently suffered an illness or a loss. It could also be related to stress or food insecurity. The list honestly goes on about what someone’s body changes are related to. We don’t want to glorify or shame someone who their suffering or their personal challenges.
Instead of seeing this whole amazing person, we see their body first. We downplay who the person, living in this body actually is, by saying that their body is who they are, and not their personality.
Now that you’ve been complimented for all the weight you lost, what will happen when you gain the weight back? Studies continue to show that majority of people who diet will regain the weight, if not more. Once this happens, more people resort to self-blame and shame, and further avoid social situations with people who have seen them and complimented them on their previous weight loss. It takes the joy away from most social experiences – even though they have nothing to do with your body.
We want to stop hyper focusing on bodies all of the time. It’s the subtleties that are enough to perpetuate the belief that thinner is better and worthier in children from a very young age, and amongst adults. This only continues the cycle that makes us worse and never good enough.
Now that it’s clear (at least I hope it is), why we should all stop commenting on people’s bodies, you may be asking yourself “okay, I get why we shouldn’t comment on people’s bodies. But like…. Now what?”
Well, aside from the obvious “just don’t talk about bodies”, you can simply have other topics of conversation prepared next time you are in a social setting.
Think about what else you like about this person? What is something you could tell them that acknowledges their strengths as an individual (remember, person first, not body)? Some examples include “I love how creative you are” OR “Your perspective on X is so interesting” OR “You’re a great listener”
It doesn’t even always have to be a compliment directed to the person’s personality. It could just be expressing your gratitude for who they are (as a person) and what value they bring to your life. For example: “I just love the fact that we’re here together” OR “I love the fact that we get to spend this time together, you’re so great to be around” OR “your presence makes me feel warm and welcome”.
I know, there are only 3 bullet points here, but that’s because, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, it’s not that complicated! Yes, this will take time and practice. For many folks, talking and commenting on other people’s bodies is a habit. This means we need to make a conscious effort to divert our attention away from body talk. Trust me, there are way more interesting things to talk about than your body or someone else’s.
Check out my FREE Class to learn more about my Guilt Free Method so that you can find food freedom and feel good in your body.
A lot of my program participants and my one on one clients are faced with this conundrum. For some, as they start to heal their relationship with food and their bodies, their bodies may begin to change. They start getting compliments about it and it makes them feel uneasy because they don’t want to divert attention to their bodies, as they have worked so hard to put less emphasis on their self-worth and their body.
It can be triggering and tempting to bring us back to the diet mentality. So understanding how to address these comments is a big part of advocating for yourself and setting boundaries.
“I know that you’re very well intended when you say this, however, I would appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my body. I’ve been doing a lot of work the past few months to try to be very neutral towards my body and commenting on it isn’t helpful for me.”
“I’ve been listening to this podcast, and something that I learned is that when you comment on my body, or when we talk about bodies, in general, it often leaves me feeling not too great about myself. I often feel depleted, sad and frustrated. For those reasons, I kindly as that we don’t talk about this anymore.”
Just don’t do it. Commenting on someone’s body is never asked for.
You can see how even just 1 comment on your body or someone else’s body, can trigger a chain reaction to harmful beliefs and behaviours about yourself and others. All of which can be avoided by simply finding another topic of conversation.
This is the body that you live in. You are going to continue to take care of YOUR body because it is worthy of that.
Hear me explore this topic more in depth in this week’s solo podcast episode! Access it by clicking on any of the icons below!
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice